Saturday, September 19, 2015
CNYRW Presents Maggie Shayne: The Three-Act Structure
We at the CNY Romance Writers are fortunate to have NY Times Bestselling author Maggie Shayne as a member. Maggie is a font of knowledge about the writing industry, as well as publishing, having started her own imprint, Thunderfoot Publishing.
Today, Maggie offered us a look at the Three-Act Structure, which is how popular films are formatted. How is this helpful to writers? Well, we often look to the film industry for tips on structuring the perfect read, because let's face it: those blockbuster movie makers must be on to something.
The Three-Act Structure
The Three-Act Structure is nothing new. Imagine a movie or book divided into four equal parts, called One, Two A, Two B, and Three. Part One is 25% of your book and involves the stages of story setup. Parts Two A and Two B are 50%, essentially the "middle chunk" of your book, and involve the characters' struggles and major turning points. This middle ends in your black moment, when all is lost for your characters. Part Three is the final 25%, involving the final push and overall climax of your book, when your characters triumph over the odds. It also wraps it up neatly by showing your characters with their rewards in the changed world of the story.
Each "part" of the book has its own separate climactic moments, when something big changes for your characters. Maggie recommended Alexandra Sokoloff's book "Screenwriting Tricks for Authors" as a guide to this structure, tailored to those of us who write rather than navigate showbiz.
We love to use movies as examples for how to structure a book, too, because they're such a wonderful shorthand, and many of us have watched the movies in question. For romance writers, what better movie could be suited to the purpose than "Romancing the Stone?" Maggie illustrated how beautifully this movie conforms to the Three-Act Structure, including the climactic twists and turns that lead the characters through their adventures. You can actually time the acts at the correct points in the film! If you are a romance writer and haven't seen this movie, you really should (and it's hilarious, too!). Even if you don't write romance, watch it for a great example of this type of structure.
While I was familiar with the Three-Act Structure, it was wonderful to see it presented clearly and enthusiastically by Maggie Shayne. Maggie loves her craft, and it shows. I came home with fresh perspectives on my current WIP, and I hope you've learned something from my post here. Happy writing!